Who's Hot and Who's Not in Boxing This Summer
In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, fan interest runs fickle in everything. An athlete can go from the hottest star on the horizon to an afterthought quickly.
And getting hot and staying hot doesn't always correspond completely to what has happened in the ring. Business complications or lack of ideal opportunities can put a damper on the most sizzling fighter.
Most of the fighters on the “not” side of the list here are only an exciting performance away from moving to the other side of the ledger.
Hot: Saul Alvarez
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There is still a block of boxing fans who are reserving judgment on 22-year-old Saul Alvarez. I get it. His last performance against Austin Trout was impressive, but hardly flawless.
And aside from an over-the-hill Shane Mosley, Trout is the only stellar name on Alvarez's resume.
But there's no denying that Canelo is among the very hottest stars in the sport this summer. In September, he will be headlining the biggest boxing event of the year, with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
The early publicity stops for this fight have resembled rock concerts, and Canelo's appeal has been a major part of that.
Is Alvarez truly ready for a clash with Mayweather? Probably not. But I think he'll surprise people with how well he does, and his star will continue to rise.
Not: Mike Alvarado
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Something is very wrong with this picture. Mike Alvarado captured the WBO junior welterweight title last February—when he won his rematch against Brandon Rios—in another classic battle between the two warriors.
He should be one of the hottest fighters in the sport. But as summer moves along, Alvarado's name rarely comes up.
He's a primary victim of the Golden Boy-Top Rank Cold War. He fights in a weight class loaded with stars, but many of them are signed with Golden Boy, while Alvarado is promoted by Top Rank.
Nobody even talks about Alvarado as an opponent for somebody like Lucas Matthysse or Danny Garcia. Fans would love to see either of those fights, but given the realities of the business, it makes as much sense to talk about those fights as it does to talk about Sasquatch sightings.
Despite the fact that Alvarado won their most recent fight, Brandon Rios got the nod for a fight with superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Alvarado should get hot again. He will likely return to action in October or November against Ruslan Provodnikov. That should be an extremely exciting fight, and Alvarado has the skills to outbox the rugged Siberian.
Beyond that, Top Rank should get this guy a big-time fight for early next spring. A tough, exciting fighter like Alvarado should be on the tongue of every boxing fan.
Hot: Gennady Golovkin
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On June 29, WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin improved his record to 27-0 with 24 stoppages, when he knocked out challenger Matthew Macklin with a body punch in the third round. He stalked and punished the ultra-tough Mack the Knife from the opening round on.
Golovkin made things look so easy that night that his accomplishment really should be spelled out and fully put into context.
Macklin fought on extremely competitive terms for the first half of his fight with Sergio Martinez in March of 2012 before getting stopped in Round 11. In June of 2011, Macklin lost a split decision to Felix Sturm in Germany that many observers considered the worst decision of the year.
Macklin is a consensus, top-five middleweight. And Golovkin chewed him up and spat him out.
As HBO's Max Kellerman said repeatedly during the broadcast, Golovkin's performance against Macklin was “not normal.”
Golovkin has a cheerful, down-to-earth personality that perfectly complements his ferocious in-ring image. He is a superstar on the rise.
Even though Golovkin is of very average size for a middleweight, his future will probably include a trip up to 168 at some point. I think a future showdown with Andre Ward is inevitable.
Not: Andre Ward
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Let's be clear: Andre Ward is among the very top pound-for-pound stars in the sport. Most credible lists have him at one or two.
But Ward hasn't fought since last September, and it's unclear whether or not he will fight before the end of this year. Behind the delay in his return to action is a dispute with his longtime promoter, Dan Goosen.
On June 29, ESPN's Dan Rafael reported that the California State Athletic Commission had upheld Goosen's contract with Ward. Ward told ESPN afterward that he planned to return to action in September, but also that he might battle the decision in the courts.
If he ends up going down the legal avenue, his chances of returning to action this year would seem much less likely.
If he does return this year, it's an open question as to who his opponent will be. The top-rated super middleweight who has yet to face Ward is Robert Stieglitz, the WBO belt holder.
I don't believe there is a lot of demand for that fight. HBO would likely refuse to approve him as an opponent.
Carl Froch is the obvious No. 2 fighter at 168, but Ward has already beaten him with ease. Still, a rematch would sell out a soccer stadium in London.
Ward's talent is undeniable, and his resume is already outstanding. He will be one of the hottest fighters in the sport again at some point.
But at 29, he should be entering the most productive years of his career, not standing on the sidelines.
Hot: Lucas Matthysse
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Lucas Matthysse, the gunslinger from Argentina, may just be the hottest fighter in the entire sport. He sports a 34-2 record with 32 KO's. Both of his two losses were hotly contested split decisions.
Matthysse entered 2013 already among the hottest stars in boxing. His May showdown with Lamont Peterson was one of the most highly anticipated fights of the first half of the year. Matthysse's dominant performance—crushing Peterson by Round 3 TKO—has elevated his popularity with boxing fans to another level.
There has been speculation that Matthysse will face WBA and WBC 140-pound champion Danny Garcia on the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez pay-per-view, but so far nothing has been signed. On July 11, Ben Thompson of Fighthype.com reported that sources close to both sides have confirmed that the terms for the fight have been agreed to.
If the fight does get made for that date, it will certainly boost sales for the card. I'd make Matthysse the prohibitive favorite to not only win, but to steal the entire show right out from under the headliners.
Not: Adrien Broner
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In June, Adrien Broner became a three-division world champion at age 23. That puts him in pretty rare company in boxing history, even in this era of watered-down title belts.
But instead of furnishing kindling for his red-hot career, Broner's split-decision victory over Paulie Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight crown has been more like a bucket of water tossed on a kid's birthday cake.
I do not agree at all that Malignaggi got robbed. Broner clearly deserved to win the fight, in my opinion. But in victory, he hardly looked like the future king of boxing that he has vigorously promoted himself to be.
Broner's trash-talk leading up to the fight turned off plenty of fans, and his continuation of it in the post-fight, in-ring interview he did with Showtime's Jim Gray turned off many more. Talking-trash in the build up to a fight is mostly viewed as marketing.
Continuing to do so after the fight is viewed as disrespectful to the sport.
More recently, on July 11, Broner made headlines for issuing tweets that could easily be interpreted as veiled suicide threats:
I'm bout to play Russia roulette with a fully loaded pistol maybe all my problems will go away!!!— Adrien Broner (@AdrienBroner) July 11, 2013
One would certainly hope Broner is not really feeling suicidal, but the alternative is that he was simply making a dramatic, attention-seeking gesture. Either way, his current mental state seems less than ideal for withstanding the rigors of prizefighting at the elite level.
Against Malignaggi, Broner looked like a guy who isn't ready for the biggest stars at 140 and 147 pounds. But he's been so relentlessly talked up at this point, it's hard to see how he can get away with fighting anybody else.
Hot: Floyd Mayweather
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Floyd Mayweather will always have his detractors, ready to join any conversation about him, to point out the fact that he never fought the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Paul Williams or Antonio Margarito. And there's no question that his resume would read better if he had made at least one or two of those fights.
But the fact remains that Floyd Mayweather has survived to the summer of 2013 as the top pound-for-pound boxer on the planet. He remains the sport's biggest star.
Now, at 36, he is promoting what will surely be his biggest pay-per-view event in years. When he enters the ring against Canelo Alvarez in September, he will be giving up 20 pounds to a fighter 13 years his junior.
Whether or not Canelo Alvarez is actually ready for the likes of Mayweather remains to be seen. But at this point, it hardly seems to matter. This is the fight the majority of fans wanted to see, and Mayweather is giving it to them.
Love him or hate him, Mayweather remains one of the hottest, most talked-about fighters in the game.
Not: Manny Pacquiao
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Manny Pacquiao lying face down on the canvas at the conclusion of his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez last December is without question the enduring boxing image for 2012. The man who was so recently the hottest fighter in the sport saw his flame nearly extinguished.
And it seems unlikely Pacquiao's comeback fight this fall with Brandon Rios will do much to reignite his fire. Rios is a popular and exciting fighter, but he's coming off of a loss and is regarded more as a fan-friendly brawler than a top pound-for-pound star.
While Alvarez-Mayweather is on everybody's lips, few people write about or discuss Pacquiao's upcoming bout with Rios. Pacquiao and Rios are both action fighters, so interest will definitely pick up as the fight approaches.
But I don't get the impression that anybody out there is giddy with anticipation.
Even if Pacquiao wins an exciting fight, he won't get much credit for simply doing what everybody expected him to be able to do. If he loses that fight, he is almost certainly done.
This is not the kind of risk-reward ratio generally accepted by box-office stars like Pacman.
Few, if any, fighters have been more consistently exciting than Manny Pacquiao over the past 20 years. Fans will remember him for that. He will go down as among the sport's most beloved heroes.
But boxing stars tend to be like real stars. No matter how brightly they burn, they usually experience a cooling down period at the end.
Hot: Friday Night Fights
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As top premium cable cards grow rare during the summer months, ESPN's Friday Night Fights becomes even more critical for fight fans looking to get their weekly fix. The lineup scheduled now on Boxrec.com looks promising.
Ajose Olusegun vs. Henry Lundy, scheduled for July 19, appears to me like a can't-miss, great fight. Bright young stars Juan Carlos Burgos and Javier Fortuna are both scheduled to fight on the show later this summer.
In August, top-rated light heavyweights Andrzej Fonfara and Gabriel Campillo will fight.
Friday Night Fights is the best place in the mainstream media to pick up early exposure to rising stars. On any given broadcast, there's a chance you will end up watching a four- or six-round swing fight featuring a future star.
Not: The Heavyweight Division
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Putting the heavyweight division on a list like this makes me feel like a drunken cavalry officer, unloading my service revolver into the corpse of a horse that's been dead so long the buzzards have long since picked its carcass clean.
Still, as a fan who first started watching the sport in the late 1970s, my disappointment over the current state of affairs in the heavyweight division is unending. David Haye vs. Tyson Fury is now official for September, and the fight is already being spoken about as a world title eliminator.
That either of these two could be spoken about as the possible No. 1 contender in the world is depressing. In his last fight, Fury had to climb up off from the canvas against a cruiserweight in order to finally wear down and stop a man he towered over.
Fury did what he had to do to win in that fight, and congratulations to him for it. But I cannot seriously believe that a fighter who got knocked flat against Steve Cunningham is going to avoid getting knocked cold by Wladimir Klitschko.
I kind of doubt he manages to avoid getting knocked out by Haye. But if that means we're back with Haye at the front of the line for a shot at the Klitschko brothers, I pray to the boxing gods that I'm wrong.
Meanwhile, Klitschko is at long last scheduled to face Alexander Povetkin this coming October. Although, after all the years of waiting that have occurred over this fight, I won't actually believe it's going to happen until both men enter the ring.
There's a time when I could have been excited about a Klitschko-Povetkin matchup. But that time was at least two years ago and before I had seen Povetkin fight Marco Huck.
I still see some glimmers of hope on the heavyweight horizon. I think Kubrat Pulev and Bryant Jennings look promising.
But then, I just might be that drunk cavalry officer again, so far gone now I'm hallucinating my dead horse back to life.